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Topics - cbreiling

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I was shopping with a web-designer friend of mine, and we were in the fruit aisle.

He said, "Isn't it interesting that an 'orange' is colored orange?"

"But it's not," I replied, "It doesn't have any color at all. The chemical structure of the rind is such that it absorbs all wavelengths of incident light except those around 650 nanometers in wavelength. Color is just a figment of your imagination."

"That's ridiculous," he said, and he pulled out his digital camera and took a picture of it. "See?" he said, pointing to the image on the display. "It's orange."

"Oh, now you're just embarrasing yourself. It's not orange, the pixels of the display are producing the illusion of this so-called color orange. The red pixels are at full brightness, the greens are at around 65%, and the blue pixels aren't even on."

We went back to his lab, where he wanted to "prove" something to me. He fired up his web editor, and typed some CSS: "body {background-color: orange}" then refreshed the page in a browser, proudly pointing to the "orange" page.

I told him, "Dude, seriously you should know better. There is no orange. It doesn't exist. The CSS uses a standard web specification lookup table to save you from typing the hexidecimal #FFA500, since only geeks could remember them all. So when you type the word 'orange' it's really #FFA500. Orange doesn't exist."

He then asked me, "So when I point to this orange, and I ask you what color it is, what would you say?"

"Well, according to General Relativity," I replied, "the wavelength of light passing through a gravitational field will be shifted towards redder regions of the spectrum. So if we were near a black hole your fruit might appear red. But it also depends on your frame of reference. If I were on a space ship going fast enough towards the fruit, I'd have to say it looks yellow because of blueshift."

I also found out my friend believes that Gravity exists and that the Earth is round, like this fruit. Figures.

Flat Earth Debate / Newton's Laws and FET
« on: August 20, 2008, 09:43:41 PM »
From a discussion I was having with Robosteve. Please do NOT read if you have ADHD.

Did you know that Flat Earth Theory is incompatible with Newton's laws? Not just a little bit, but you have to throw the whole thing out. There isn't even a tiny fraction of common ground. You either reject all of Newton's laws of motion and gravity, or you reject all of FET.

Explain, please.

Ok, first let's start with reality.

Earth-Moon System: The earth's radius was computed by Erathosthenes 2000 years ago, and Cavendish determined the earth's density. Plug these into Newton's gravity equation and we get 9.8 m/s/s. What about a place we've never been before, like the moon? Well based upon the orbital distance of the moon (figured out easily enough using simple triangulation) and velocity, we can determine its mass. Plug the Moon's mass and radius into Newton's gravity equation and we get 1.6 m/s/s. This value has been both confirmed and useful to the U.S., the former Soviet Union, China, and Japan, which have all sent spacecraft to the Moon, manned and unmanned. Phases of the moon and eclipses are also simply explained and predicted when using Newton's model.

The solar system: The approximate masses, orbital radii, periods etc, of every single planet and major moon in the solar system has been intricately measured, with many of these measurements coming from Newton himself, who improved upon Kepler's circular orbit model. Newton's model accurately explains and predicts planetary and satellite motion. Being that all the planetary and comet orbits go around the sun, it is kind of important that the sun be extremely massive (compared to all the planets combined), and be 93 million miles away from the Earth, as we're the third planet from the sun. There are only trivial discrepancies in the past 300 years of planetary and satellite observations, when compared with Newton's laws. Even things like planetary alignment (which causes little "tugs" on nearby planets) is accurately modeled by Newton's law of gravity.

Artificial Satellites: Many conveniences of our world today would not be possible without artificial satellites, for example, the problem of communication over long distances was never solved until telecommunications satellites were placed in orbit which could relay the signals using line-of-sight from space. Both faster-orbiting satellites (such as spy, mapping and GPS satellites) as well as Geosyncronous (Weather, TV, and Radio) satellites are now ubiquitous, and more are launched every month, by space agencies across the globe. The physics behind the launching and insertion into proper orbit of just one of these satellites requires that gravity work exactly as Newton described.

Tides: It's really simple: When the Moon is directly over head, we get a high tide. When the new moon is directly overhead (this would be near noontime) we get an extra high tide, because both the sun and the moon's gravity are tugging at the world's oceans. All explained by the law of gravity. (The actual tidal situation across the globe is more complicated since the water has to flow from point A to point B, so geography has a lot to do with the strength of tides. But when the moon is overhead, there's a high tide.)

Now let's consider the Flat Earth Theory:

Earth-Moon System: The moon is a small "cold-light" spotlight which hovers above the disk of the earth, while orbiting an imaginary point above the north pole. What causes it to stay up there? Things aren't allowed to "hover" in Newtonian mechanics.

What causes it to go in a circle/ellipse? Newtonian mechanics require action-reaction pairs, so the moon can't just turn the corner without there being a reaction somewhere. Maybe it's tethered to an invisible moon on the other side, and the tether crosses the axis of the north pole? Still no explanation of the hovering.

What causes it to be a spotlight? Phases of the moon must also be explained by some other means, since the Moon isn't where Newton said it is. Oh, and the entire Space Program (by all nations of the world) is a big conspiracy of lies, since it is impossible to "go to the moon" being that there's no gravity.

The solar system: In a word, there is no solar system, since by definition, the sun is locked into a small circle above our North pole, plus it doesn't have much mass, so nothing of note would be able to orbit it. Basically all these dots moving across the sky (which astronomers call Planets) remain unexplained, especially their retrograde motion across the backdrop of stars.

Speaking of the sun, the same problems arise as with the FET Moon, namely, the hovering behavior, the circular motion, and the magic shade illuminating a truly bizarre pattern on the earth's surface. (For example, during the December Solstice, when the Antarctic circle gets 24 hours of daylight, the sun's illumination covers the entire circumference of the flat earth disk, with a strange pattern of shadow on the northern hemisphere. Odd behavior for a spotlight.)

Artificial Satellites: These cannot exist in FET, simply because there is no gravity. Without gravity, there are no orbital mechanics. There is only the fall-back position that it's all done with ground transmitters or Stratellites (which have never gotten out of the prototype phase). Not supported by evidence, as anyone with a satellite dish on their house will tell you.

Tides: In FET, tides are explained by the tilted dinnerplate model. As the flat Earth's disk tilts to one side or another, ocean water rises in one part of the world or another. No mention of how this relates to the magic Moon spotlight, or the fact that the dinnerplate model would only lead to high tides near the Ice Wall, but never anywhere else on the disk.

What about Einstein? Lastly, there's been a lot of talk of Einstein, as if obfuscation by way of relativity will help conceal the flaws of FET. Do you realize that Einstein's General Theory of Relativity is a union of Newton's law of Universal Gravitation with Special Relativity? (He defined Gravitation as "the force attracting masses," for those of you who like to claim that this force doesn't exist.)

Posters who say "gravity doesn't exist, and by the way Einstein said blah blah" are just being silly.  :)

Flat Earth Debate / Three models of Gravity
« on: August 20, 2008, 01:33:31 PM »
Warning: this post is Too Long; Don't Read it.  ;)

Everyone here can acknowledge that when you drop a brick, it will accelerate at 9.8 m/s/s towards your big toe, and we can all call that "gravitation" (even if you don't believe in the Force of Gravity). We can also all agree that the greater the mass of the brick, the greater the force impinged upon aforementioned toe on impact.

There are three possible explanations for this phenomena:
  • We are on the inside of a giant wheel (the Halo model) and it is spinning at such an angular velocity to cause we humans who live at its circumference to experience centripetal acceleration, even though technically centrifugal force doesn't exist.
  • We live on the surface of a disk which is accelerating upward at 9.8 m/s/s (the magic elevator model). While we experience grativation, gravity doesn't exist.
  • We are on the surface of a spheroid planet, with a mass and radius such that at our distance from the center, we experience a gravitation acceleration of 9.8 m/s/s (the round earth model)

If you lived inside a house with no windows there's really no way you could tell the difference between these three models. (If your house were small enough, the "magic elevator" could actually be an accelerating rocketship.)

So how could you find out the source of this mysterious downward force called gravitation? By observation, which means you need to get out of that armchair and out of the house.  ;)

1. Halo Model: If you were in the Halo, you'd of course notice this giant thing swooping up into the sky (which would probably look really cool at night). But from a physics standpoint, you could travel the entire length and width of the cylindrical halo, and your gravitational force would remain constant. But there's a limit, for the halo has an edge, and you wouldn't want to fall off.

Plus by observing things not on the halo such as stars and other celestial bodies, you can clearly see your circular movement. All stars would appear to rotate around two points marking the end points of the axis of rotation of your halo.

2. The magic elevator model: (Better known as Flat Earth Theory) Again, we could travel the length and width of the flat earth, and we'd find gravitation to be constant, but there's the limit of not being able to cross the edge (the Ice Wall).

Again, we can observe the motions of heavenly bodies not on our magic elevator. They'd by definition have to accelerate downward at the rate of 9.8 m/s/s, which would make astronomy a little inconvenient. Since we don't see everything accelerating downward away from us, we have to conclude that the entire universe is with us on this magic elevator, which makes for an interesting physics problem.

If the entire universe is accelerating upwards at 9.8 m/s/s then this means that the force of gravitation is the same everywhere, and is aligned downward everywhere. The motions of our solar system's planets pose an especially intractable problem, because there has to be some force holding them "up" just as the ground beneath our feet holds us "up" since we're accelerating upwards.

3. Round Earth Model: (We'll make things complicated by making this Round Earth rotate on an imaginary axis.) If we lived on a round earth, then several things must occur. For one, explorers should be limitless in circumnavigating the planet. The motions of the stars in the night sky must appear to rotate around two imaginary points marking the end points of our earth's axis.

The force of gravitation, attracting us towards the ground, must be explained somehow, since we're not inside a spinning Halo, nor are we on a magic elevator. Therefore we'd have to perform experiments demonstrating that for some unknown reason, things with mass are attracted to one another. (do this one in your basement!)

What would be really great would be if we came up with some "law of gravity" we could apply that to the rest of the planets and moons of our solar system. If things with mass are attracted together, then the Earth and Moon would have to have some way of not crashing into each other, and would therefore have to swing around each other, so that each planet's centripetal acceleration perfectly counteracts the force of "gravity" at that distance.

You know, it would be really great if all planets and moons could obey this law. I'm tired of living on this Flat Earth.  ;)

As for the suggestion that gravity doesn't exist, well that one is a bit much. It's like saying dogs and cats don't exist, or that sand is more nutritious than cornflakes, or that fire is merely caused by an astigmatism in your eye. There's no evidence to support these claims (and a mountain of not just theoretical evidence, but living proof, to demonstrate otherwise).

Sample challenges:
  • "If dogs and cats existed, then why isn't there one right here in this classroom, right now? You haven't proved anything."
  • "Have you ever eaten an entire bucket of sand? You haven't? Well then what gives you the right to claim it's not nutritious?"
  • "Have you stuck your entire hand in this so-called fire? You haven't? So this merely proves my point that it's caused by a problem in your eye, and really doesn't exist."

Ok, FEs claim frequently that Gravity doesn't exist. I'll freely admit, if we were on a "space elevator" accelerating upwards at 9.8 m/s/s it would appear that there were "One-G" gravity in the down direction. Unfortunately gravity is more than a force in the down direction. It is defined as an attraction between masses. (Which no one can explain the reason why, so please stop asking RE proponents to do so. :) )

I'd love for some FE proponent to adequately explain this demonstration of gravity (if you don't feel like reading the article, just skip to the movie):

Since gravity exists, the moon orbits the Earth and causes tides, the Earth orbits the sun, along with the other planets and asteroids and comets, and the entire solar system orbits the galactic center. All of this has been confirmed by hundreds of years of painstaking observations and careful measurements. Oh, and it also helps that with gravity, we can have a spherical Earth, and people in Australia don't fall off.

If gravity didn't exist, then you'd need to have a flat earth accelerating upwards at 9.8 m/s/s (I understand that part), but you can't have a sun, moon, planets, asteroids, or comets. You also don't have any mechanism for (in the FE model) the "sun flashlight" and the "moon" to orbit above the north pole. What causes these to move in a circle/ellipse? It's like Round Earthers are supposed to accept that the "sun" and "moon" just magically move in a circle with nothing holding them up or causing their movements. Something's got to cause them to "turn the corner" so to speak as they move in a circle/ellipse? (With gravity, you have balanced systems: the Earth-Moon system rotates around the center of mass of the Earth-Moon, which is located inside the earth.)

Without gravity, well you've simply got a lot more extremely complicated explaining to do, and you don't have a single piece of evidence to support it, unlike the case for gravity.

Flat Earth Debate / Metaphor for Flat Earth / Round Earth debate
« on: August 18, 2008, 11:46:39 AM »
In October 1958, in a small boarding school for boys in New England, a classroom full of 4th graders was treated to a lecture and demonstration by an avant-garde artist who liked to create "Fixed Art" from found bits of everyday objects, and arranging them carefully to make it look almost accidental. The guy had a funny accent, and he arched his eyebrows comically as he described his methods, and the children had a good time with his demonstration.

Then they went to the cafeteria for lunch, shortly after a previous group of students finished their meal. A student discovered, near the back of of the cafeteria, a broken glass with some spilled milk on the floor. Calling over his classmates, they decided that the artist must have created this display as a work of "Fixed Art." He simply took the broken pieces of glass, arranged them in a seemingly random pattern on the floor, then dribbled milk amongst the fragments. They were thrilled at this discovery and couldn't wait to tell their teacher.

Just then another student named Bob showed up with a dustpan and a mop, saying that he'd accidentally dropped the glass, and had gone off to get what he needed to clean it up. Several students accepted this, but a number of them thought it was all part of the gag, that the artist hired Bob as an actor/accomplice, to make it seem like it was simply a case of a dropped, broken glass.

So they went back to the artist, and asked him about it. He was genuinely pleased that the students got so much out of his demonstration, but admitted, no, he had nothing to do with the cafeteria.

This prompted a discussion amongst the students who still thought the broken glass was deliberate Fixed Art: either the artist was lying, or another person (maybe another student who had seen the artist's lecture) had created the display. But by then most students accepted the broken glass as an everyday random accident.

The teacher encouraged the class to explore this as a good intellectual exercise, so the two groups of students began trying to convince each other that their argument was correct. The kids who thought it was a Random Accident became known as RAs while each student who thought it was Fixed Art went by the abbreviation FA.

One of the RAs, with the teacher's permission (and while wearing safety glasses from the Chemistry lab), took a glass, with a little milk in the bottom, and dropped it from the right height, causing it to shatter. The RAs were thrilled that the pattern on the floor looked very similar to the pattern they had initially seen, but the FAs were unconvinced, saying "that doesn't prove anything." Their two reasons: the pattern wasn't exactly the same, and even if the pattern were the same, that didn't mean someone couldn't arrange the scene to look like an accident.

But what about Bob? He admitted the accident, the RAs said. He's lying, replied the FAs.

Things seemed to be at an impasse, when it was suggested that they expand the scope of the investigation. The class began to question members of the class that had lunch before them. After speaking to only a few students, they found someone who heard the accident. Near the end of lunch, he testified, he heard a glass break, with the sound coming from his left. He quickly looked up to see Bob looking rather sheepish, standing over the broken glass.

This seemed rather convincing evidence, and it stumped the FAs to come up with an explanation. "We'll get back to you on that" they said. And within a day they had the answer. Someone first arranged the broken glass and spilled milk. Then, on cue, someone made a sound effect of broken glass, while the Bob stood over the glass shards, acting embarrassed.

Pretty good argument, said the RAs, but how do you make a sound effect of broken glass without actually breaking a glass? We're one step ahead of you, replied the FAs, pulling out a Halloween Sound Effects record with a flourish. It was, after all, almost time for Halloween, and everyone was looking forward to dressing up and going trick or treating. The teacher plugged in the phonograph player, and the class had fun listening to the record, which one of the FA students had found at home.

Sure enough, there was the recorded sound of breaking glass! The FAs were rather pleased with themselves, but one RA noted with disdain that the sound was more like a window pane breaking, rather than a drinking glass, which didn't sound the same at all. The FAs made fun of his inability to face facts.

The argument by the FAs seemed airtight, as confirmed by the next trip to the cafeteria by the class. The FAs had plotted the seated position of the one witness, who had heard the glass break, in reference to the location of the "Fixed Art" (the glass shards on the floor), and extending the vector, it hit one wall of the cafeteria where there were spare chairs stacked. Pulling these chairs aside revealed an electrical outlet! So there could have been a person hiding with a phonograph, ready to play the sound effect at just the right time.

While the RAs were forced to give some grudging respect to the FAs, it still seemed a rather complicated explanation for what they considered a simple Random Accident. Undaunted, they began to question more members of the class who had lunch when the "incident" occurred.

They quickly found another person who also heard the glass break, but he was sitting on the other side of the cafeteria from the first witness. And he reported hearing the sound come from his right! The class rushed to the cafeteria to see what this meant. Sure enough, when positioning the two "ear" witnesses, one hearing the sound coming from the right, the other hearing the sound coming from the left, both vectors intersected where Bob had stood over the broken glass.

If the sound was played on a phonograph, challenged the RAs, then they'd have to have two phonographs in such a way that each witness could only hear one of them! Plus, there was no place to plug in a second phonograph for the benefit of the second witness.

The FAs replied something about "sound doesn't have to travel in a straight line" which the RAs were forced to admit was true. This inspired them to step up the investigation, so they then interviewed every single member of the class who'd been in the cafeteria at the time of the "incident." This time they actually found eyewitnesses to the event. Several students who happened to have been facing the back of the cafeteria saw the event, and the students close to the back of the cafeteria, but facing away, had heard the event. The vectors all pointed to the location of Bob and the broken glass.

The FAs were unbowed. They pointed out, correctly, that the testimony by the students was inconsistent. For example, some students reported they saw Bob holding a glass in his left hand, others said his right. Some say he tripped, others said he just dropped the glass. And of course, a large number of students didn't see or hear anything. The RAs were incredulous. Why would so many people say they saw, or heard, Bob break the glass? Simple, replied the FAs. It's a conspiracy, probably about money.

The RAs were forced to admit there was no way to disprove it. What they needed was hard evidence, which didn't require subjective testimony, and they had none.

Then a miracle happened. One of the students in Bob's class was developing a photo he'd taken of his friends with his 4x5 Grafflex camera, since he was on the yearbook committee and was taking candids. Amazingly, when blowing up the Tri-X pan negative in the school's darkroom, and examining the background, one could clearly see Bob in the act of dropping the glass! The glass had just left his hand (his left hand, not his right), and there was clearly nothing on the floor yet. No "Fixed Art" and no phonograph player on the back wall.

You'd think that this would have been the nail in the coffin of the Fixed Art theory, but, as always, the FAs had the answer: The photo was faked.

See, it turned out that the school's math teacher, William Higinbotham was well known to have been working on crude computer graphics and had created the first video game called Tennis For Two. The FAs argued that he in fact worked secretly on making computer graphics so fantastic that they could even be used to alter real photographs. The FAs even theorized that some sort of device called a Photo-Chop (sp?) could be a possible means for faking the picture of Bob dropping the glass.

The RAs were defeated. They simply could not prove their theory of the Random Accident, and they had to face reality: it was Fixed Art after all.

Someone (like either the avant garde artist, or maybe Bob himself) carefully placed the milk and the shards of glass on the floor. Then someone played a sound of broken glass so it seemed like an accident. Sound waves don't have to travel in a straight line, so different people could have thought they heard the sound coming from Bob's location. Everyone who said they saw Bob drop the glass is part of a big conspiracy over money, and the photo of the so-called "Random Accident" was easily faked using the hypothetical Photo-Chop device.

Sometimes things aren't always what they seem.  ;)

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